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History of Cosmetology

Kashmira Lad
The fascination to look beautiful is an age-old obsession with women of all ages. Documented evidence proves that the skill of hairdressing and makeup has its roots in ancient times. Lot of practices have evolved over centuries to give birth to cosmetics that we have today.
The very first non-toxic mascara was invented and commercially produced by Eugène Rimmel, a French businessman. It attained so much success that the name Rimmel has now become synonymous with mascara in various languages, including French.
Cosmetology is the art of making your hair, skin, and face look beautiful. Women are known for being particular about the way they groom themselves. Today, even men have joined the bandwagon when it comes to enhancing their outward appearance. Although in the olden days, modern facilities were not easily available as is the case today, where cosmetology is practiced in many ways.

Quick Facts

First Hair Color

The first recorded evidence of the usage of hair-coloring agents was henna, in 3000 B.C.

Invention of Lipstick

The women of Mesopotamia were the first to invent lipstick; they would crush gemstones and wear the mixture on the lips. Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian Queen, would use the extraction made from crushed ants and carmine beetles as lipstick.

The concept of shampoo

This was influenced by the Indian version of massaging the scalp with essential oils called champi.

First Use of Face Powder

During the Victorian Age, a popular method of adding color to one's face to make it look more appealing, was to pinch the cheeks to bring out its natural color.

The Roll-on Deodorant

It was created in 1952, followed by the aerosol deodorant launched in 1965.


Studies in the field of archaeology have stated that the very first experimental studies on cosmetics were carried out by the ancient Egyptians. They created essential oils from the melange of leaves, barks, and flowers, for the first time.
These were then used in the preparation of perfumes and other refining processes. Documented evidence shows that during the reign of Thutmose III, ingredients such as fresh moringa, gum of frankincense, and honey, were used to treat wrinkles.
Evidence points out the facts that around 400 years ago, the early Egyptians used eyeliners made from a mixture of lead, mercury, and ash. This can be clearly seen on the bust of Nefertiti, dating back to around 1320 BC. For the treatment of baldness and graying hair, a mixture of resin and beeswax was used.

Hairstyle of Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians would tie their hair in an updo using a clip, to beat the heat. On special occasions, they would wear black wigs. The wigs would usually be long and braided, with adornments nestled within.


The Greeks first coined the term cosmetics, and also have a reference in the Old Testament, where in approximately 840 BC, Jezebel paints her eyelids. The book of Esther, Jewish Queen of the King of Persia, Ahasuerus, also mentions several beauty treatments.
Women frequently used henna or gold powder for their hair. They'd also grind cinnabar to produce the mineral's color to use it to stain the lips and cheeks. The Greeks were also known for being particular about using lotions for bathing.


Along with the Greeks, even the Romans treasured and valued their bathing routine. They would use varied lotions and perfumes, and indulge in what we call today, steam baths - for cleansing and keeping their skin healthy. Only the upper class of society would have the privilege of using curling irons and hair coloring products.
The extensive hair and makeup sessions would take place only in the higher class of society; the women would often color their hair blond. Scented perfumes became famous and were used widely. The Lex Oppia law banned the usage of expensive brands of Chinese cosmetics in 189 BC. This then lead to the making of reasonably-priced products, which women from all classes could afford.

Geishas used to wear lipstick made from the crushed petals of flowers. This lipstick was used to apply color to the eyebrows, lips, and the area around the eyes, as part of their daily makeup routine.
They would use rice powder to make their face and neck appear white. By the 6th century, the Japanese had mastered the art of making incense pastes from powdered herbs, along with other ingredients such as seaweed and charcoal, making a base for the preparation of perfumes in the future.


The Chinese used the synonymous word heang for perfume, fragrance and incense. They used to import jasmine-scented oils from India.
During the Tang Dynasty, it was common for women to line their eyebrows and powder their faces excessively. The women during the Han Dynasty believed that the higher their hair was tied, the more attractive one looked; the period was marked by women sporting hairdos up to 1 meter high.

First Nail Polish

Around 3000 BC, the Chinese started using gum Arabic, egg, beeswax, and gelatin to paint their fingernails.
The colors they used to apply on their nails differed with each class within the society. While the royals of the Chou Dynasty wore shades of gold, silver, black, or red, the lower classes were prohibited from sporting similar or bright colors.
Great Britain

Techniques related to hairstyling were basically developed in Britain. They came up with several techniques on how to curl the hair with an iron. The act of perming one's hair was popularized and introduced through Britain.
Women were strongly influenced by the stars of the entertainment industry, where the demand for elaborate hairstyling increased. This was when techniques in haircare went through many changes in pursuit of advanced methods.

Parts of Europe

The Church Leaders of the Middle Ages considered it to be sinful if one applied makeup. During the Renaissance Period, the lower class of people were made to work long hours in the sun, therefore making their skin darker.
The upper class spent most of the time indoors, making their skin pale and lighter in comparison. Thus, most of the society opted for a range of products such as white lead or white powder, in an attempt to sport a pale and lighter skin tone.

Cosmetology Today

In the 20th century, the art of makeup and hairdressing became fashionable and a necessity in most parts of Europe and America. Eugène Schueller was the first to invent synthetic hair dye in 1907, and sunscreen lotion in 1936. Earlier, only workers in the field used sunscreen lotion, but with the advent of Chanel and its numerous suntan products, these lotions gained popularity within every household.

Production of Cosmetics for African-American women

In the 1970s, companies started the production of makeup especially for African-American women. Ultimately, cosmetics for almost every skin tone slowly made its way into global markets.

Evolution of Different Cosmetics for Men and Women

The 21st century began with the production of a wide range of products for men too. Cosmetic merchandise has now become the most sought-after product for both sexes.
Today, it is not just eyeliners and mascara that constitutes the large portion of the global market, but companies are generating considerable amount of revenue from anti-aging and specialized creams for both men and women. The branch of cosmetology has widened, and now has an array of specializations in various related fields such as a nail technician, wig technician, esthetician and the likes.

Cosmetic Plastic Surgeries

These have also developed significantly, thus, one can now look like they want for a long period of time, rather than opting for products which have a limited shelf-life.
The government, however, has little role to play when it comes to cosmetic companies. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs only the colors that the companies can use in the production of hair dyes.
In the end, what was known as more of an art or a skill, has today become a career for thousands of budding professionals. There are special schools dedicated to imparting knowledge based on cosmetology. One can learn two valuable things - how beauty products have evolved through the ages, and the ever-changing craft that goes into modern-day cosmetics.